Yesterday was the culmination of what my coteacher described in my Propulsion Comments as "Emergency Earthquake Training the Violence," but could possibly be better described as "a fire drill." I say possibly because, while the exercise was definitely a fire drill, labeling it as such could give the extremely misleading impression that it was similar to an American-style fire drill. From what I remember in elementary school, in America the fire alarm goes off, the students walk calmly (or at least, that's the goal) outside, the fire department checks the alarm system while the teachers take attendance, and then the students go back inside the school.
At Gongju Gyodong Elementary school, we had two days of training before the "real" fire drill. (I didn't have to participate in the drill-of-the-drill, so I'm not entirely sure what that was like). On the third, official day, members of the Provincial Board of Education came to watch from a special tent set up for them on a platform in front of the school. At the appointed time (11:30--three separate announcements reminded us of this fact), alarms began sounding all over the school. These were nearly drowned out by the sound of 500 madly sprinting students. To my surprise, all the teachers were right behind them, urging them to run faster (they did, however, all stop to change from inside shoes to outside shoes at the doorways). When we got outside, I saw that red flares had been placed on the second floor windows for effect. We squatted in the middle of the "athletic field" in front of the school, in front of a giant pile of sticks and brush onto which the school handyman was pouring huge jugs of gas. The fire department arrived, doused the flares, and then ignited the pile of sticks. One fireman gave a brief speech while the flames and smoke rose into a bonfire thick and high enough to completely obscure the school. The students were way too excited to stay still, and--just when I thought things couldn't possibly get more dangerous--the fireman selected a student from each of grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 and instructed them to grab some fire extinguishers and approach and put out the blaze. One of the two teachers I was standing with laughed at the 3rd grade girl (8 years old!) who was scared to get close to the fire.
Three teachers and the fireman eventually took over for the kids, but they couldn't put the fire out either. We had to go back into the school with it still burning merrily in the middle of the field (the field is just a sandlot, so we weren't in immediate danger or anything). I'm not entirely sure I feel safer now...
My friend and fellow ETA Jill had a similar--although seemingly not quite so life-threateningly awesome--Emergency Drill Day. This is from one of her emails:
My school is having practice emergency drills today, which means making an announcement and the whole school running out at once. There is no order. Once they are outside, the students are forced to run in a horde from one side of the school yard to the other. They have already done it three times and it is only third period.